Thanks to her hard work and determination, a goal that St. Joseph High School senior Danielle Lapierre set long ago is now a reality.

Lapierre, who helped lead St. Joe to its first Western Mass. tournament in a decade, will sign a letter of intent today to attend Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn., and play on its Division I golf team.

"I'm so excited," Lapierre said. "I've been thinking and talking about playing Division I golf for a long time. It's been a goal since I was little when I heard there were lots of scholarships available."

Lapierre is receiving financial help with a partial athletic scholarship and an academic merit scholarship. She has also applied for several other scholarships -- the LPGA Foundation's Marilynn Smith Scholarship (Smith is one of three living LPGA founders) and the Caitlin Brondolo Charitable Foundation Golf Scholarship (given in the name of a promising 12-year-old golfer who died tragically).

Getting the opportunity to play for a Division I program is a reward for dogged determination and hard work. And her growth off the golf course -- she won a statewide high school girls essay contest sponsored by the MIAA and the New Agenda: Northeast and confidently read it in front of a large crowd -- mirrors that on the golf course.

"Danielle has exhibited a very high work ethic and has continued to develop into a mature, articulate young lady," said eduKaytiongolf's Kay McMahon, Lapierre's swing coach.


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"I have been totally impressed by her progress."

McMahon, a LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Hall of Fame member, should know -- it seems every time she looks up at her winter indoor studio at Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club, the slender teen is there practicing.

"Since I got my driver's license in January, I'm there on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday," said Lapierre, no longer dependent on her parents to drive her to Lenox. "I can work on my own as much I want. I keep practicing until I get it right."

Lapierre has finally been able to take her swing outdoors recently as she prepares for a Western Mass. qualifier for the girls high school state tournament. She is pleased with the results.

"I'm more confident than ever," Lapierre said. "My ball striking is pretty good. Now that we can get on the course, I will be working more on my short game."

While she had by most measures a good senior season, Lapierre admits her scoring wasn't what she expected, especially after a breakthrough victory with her father, Paul Lapierre, in the junior division of the Massachusetts Golf Association's Father-Daughter Championship last summer.

"It seems like I couldn't keep it consistent," said Lapierre of the high school season, referring to an inability to get both the short and long games in sync during the same round.

First on Lapierre's agenda is to trying to qualify for the MIAA girls state tournament in a Western Mass. qualifier and then to capture a second Father-Daughter tournament.

"We're in the upper [senior] division this time," said Danielle. "The defending champions [John and Mary Mulcahy] have won three in a row [one in junior division, two in the senior]. We're going to go out and play our game and try to end their streak and start one of our own."

It's hardly the kind of confident statement the usually soft-spoken Lapierre would have made as a freshman when she started to work with McMahon.

"From my freshman year to now, the change is so drastic," she said. "I couldn't have gotten here without her guidance and help,"

She also is thankful that Fran Brilliant was her high school coach.

"Fran has been great," she said. "He's been there for me and my team the last four years. If it wasn't for him, there might not even have been a team. Words can't express how grateful I am to him."

Now, she'll be playing for a new coach, Matt McGreedy, at Sacred Heart.

"I've met him multiple times and he knows golf," Lapierre said. "I've talked to some of the girls on the team and they love him."

Part of the new experience will be playing on an all-female team for the first time.

"It's definitely going to be different. I'm excited about that," she said.

Of course, Danielle's favorite teammate, dear old dad, is thrilled for his daughter. Paul should be easy to spot as he drives around the Berkshires.

"He'e excited. He already has a Sacred Heart bumper sticker on his car," she said.

To contact Richard Lord:
rlord@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6236.